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There's actually an asterisk after the title of the Ed Partyka Jazz Orchestra's latest album, Hits! Vol. 1 In small print, at the bottom left-hand side of the jacket, are the words "except track 8." As Partyka explains in the liner notes, much of the album is comprised of "a cross section of the music that has generated the most enthusiastic response" from audiences, and thus the orchestra's "hits." The exception is track 8, "Hair of the Dog," a staple in the EPJO's repertoire since 2009, which Paryka says is the only "serious" jazz piece in an otherwise foursquare and light-hearted session. In other words, there's more swing and less dissonance than usual, seasoned with half a dozen earnest vocals by the talented Julia Oschewsky.
That does not mean, however, that there is any less substance to the music. Even when writing or arranging in a more easygoing vein, Partyka has much of interest to say and makes sure the orchestra is always on its toes, whether burning, as on "That 80's Opener," or adding splashes of color to Oschewsky's pensive vocals including her own compositions, "Roads" and "The Clouds That Lead the Silence." As is usually true of contemporary works, Oschewsky's lyrics are for the most part inscrutable (as are those of rock artist Feist's "Undiscovered First") but Oschewsky also sings Buddy Johnson
's "Save Your Love for Me" and Irving Berlin's "Blue Skies." Jorge Fernando's lovely "Na Palma da Mao" is sung in Portuguese, so the lyric there is of no consequence to those don't speak that language.
"That 80's Opener" and "Hair of the Dog" are the only themes written by Partyka who orchestrated two arrangements for smaller groups, student Annika Esslage's take on "Blue Skies" and saxophonist Oliver Leicht's composition, "Vertical Convertible" (a showcase for trombonist Simon Harrer). Completing the program is Billy Strayhorn
and French horn player Linus Bernoulli. "Hair of the Dog" is, as advertised, an erudite opus that is more in keeping with Partyka's customarily progressive nature, and is the album's longest selection, running for more than sixteen minutes. The splendid soloists are tenor Mark Wyand and pianist Hendrik Soll (great name for a jazz musician).
Not your usual EPJO fare, but no less engaging because of it. And the postscript "Vol. 1" holds the promise of yet more to come.
Track Listing: That 80’s Opener; Vertical Convertible; The Clouds That Lead the Silence; Roads; Save Your Love for Me; Blue Skies; Chelsea Bridge; Hair of the Dog; Na Palma da Mao; Undiscovered First.
Personnel: Ed Partyka: conductor, arranger, orchestrator; Tobias Weidinger: trumpet, flugelhorn; Benny Brown: trumpet, flugelhorn; Florian Menzel: trumpet, flugelhorn; Jorg Engels: trumpet, flugelhorn; Martin Auer: trumpet, flugelhorn; Oliver Leicht: alto, soprano sax, clarinet, alto clarinet, flute; Petr Kalfus: alto sax, clarinet, alto clarinet; Mark Wyand: tenor, soprano sax, clarinet; Katharina Thomsen: baritone sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, contra-bass clarinet; Edgar Herzog: baritone sax, bass clarinet, contra-bass clarinet, English horn; Matthias Tschopp: baritone sax, bass clarinet (2, 7); Linus Bernoulli: French horn; Simon Harper: trombone; Lukas Wyss: trombone; Juliane Gralle: bass trombone; Jan Schreiner: bass trombone, tuba; Hendrik Soll: piano; Paul Imm: bass; Reinhold Schmolzer: drums, percussion; Julia Oschewsky: voice.